قَالَا رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَا أَنفُسَنَا وَإِن لَّمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسرِينَ
Qālā rabbanā zalamnā anfusanā waAin lam taghfir lanā wa tarhamnā lanakunanna minal khāsirīn
They said: Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves! If You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers.
(Surat al A’rĀf 7, Áyat 23)
After Nabī Adam and Hawwa (a) ate from the tree they were removed from Paradise. They immediately realized that they had committed a huge mistake and were overcome with remorse and sadness. It was at this time that Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā turned Mercifully towards Adam ‘alayhis salām allowing him to repent. Then Adam received certain words from his Lord, and He turned to him mercifully. Indeed, He is the oft returning to mercy, the Merciful (Q 2:37).
This verse has the powerful Du’ā that Nabi Adam and Hawwa (a) recited. It is a beautiful Du’ā that teaches us the criteria of tawba. The first criterion of tawba is to recognize that a mistake was made. The Prophet (s) said, Remorse is repentance. (Kanz al-Ummāl, H. 10,30).] In this first step however, it is important to understand that even the recognition of that mistake comes from Allah ‘azza wajall and it is given to those whose hearts have some form of purity in it.
The second principle of true tawba that we get from this Du’ā is the etiquette with which to ask for forgiveness. In this Du’ā, Nabī Adam and Hawwa (a) do not just ask upfront, ‘Oh Allah forgive us’ rather they plead very humbly and say If You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us… This shows us the necessity of humility when we communicate and ask from Allah (swt), the tongue, heart and action all have to be on the same level of humbleness.
At the end of the Du’ā we see the emphasis that any sin which we commit, we are not harming Allah (swt) but rather harming ourselves only. We are always in need of His Mercy. Whoever acts righteously, it is for his own soul, and whoever does evil, it is to its detriment, and your Lord is not tyrannical to the servants (Q 41:46).
We live in a world where we always want to know the benefits of our efforts and the results of our exertion. Sayyid ‘Abdul Husayn Dastghayb Shirāzī in his book Greater Sins discusses the merits of Tawba. The following are some of the benefits mentioned that will inspire us to frequent the practice of sincere tawba:
1. It makes a person the beloved of God: Surely Allah loves those who turn much to Him (Q 2:222). Imam al-Sādiq (a) said: Allah becomes pleased with the Tawba of a Mu’min just as you become pleased on finding a lost thing.
2. Evil deeds are turned into good deeds: Except him who repents and believes and does a good deed; so these are they of whom Allah changes the evil deeds to good ones; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And whoever repents and does good, he surely turns to Allah a (goodly) turning (Q 25: 70-71).
3. Tawba gives grace and happiness in life. Plead with your Lord for forgiveness, then turn to Him penitently. He will provide you with a good provision for a specified term and grant His grace to every meritorious person (Q 11:3).
4. Tawba brings good tidings from God: And He it is Who accepts repentance from His servants and pardons the evil deeds and He knows what you do (Q 42:25).
Tawba is often reserved for certain important events in the Islamic calendar or when we face a challenge in our lives. Instead, from now on, make it a more common practice. Recite this verse often. He will reward you with the answers to your prayers along with good tidings of peace and happiness.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī, Al-Amthal fī Tafsīr Kitāb Allah al- Munzal, ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān.